We may be seeing a new wave of university occupations in the run up to the big TUC march against cuts on March 26th.
Following a national day of action targeting the Universities UK meeting of Vice Chancellors yesterday, which turned into a rolling demo shutting tax dodging businesses and highways, Royal Holloway, Manchester and my own university, UCL, all went into occupation. Aberystwyth went into occupation on Tuesday and Glasgow Uni are celebrating one month in today.
As I’ve said before, perhaps the most important function the occupations can provide is as spaces for anti-cuts campaigners from the unions, local sixth forms, pensioner groups and so on, to come together, link up and organise. This thickens the movement and also provides a springboard for further protests and direct action.
We’re unlikely to see the kind of mass student demos we saw in November any time soon, but the movement is broadening out and taking other forms. Already we are seeing the more militant tactics of last winter’s student uprising spread to local anti-cuts campaigns, with occupations of town halls and libraries. Just yesterday Harringey Town Hall was occupied along with York Town Hall. Lambeth Town Hall was stormed on Wednesday by a mixture of trade unionists, students and local residents protesting the loss of services, and Southampton Town Hall the week before. Wisconsin protesters who are occupying their State Capitol building, to protest anti-union measures, have described themselves as “inspired” by the student protests in Britain.
There are signs then that Nick Clegg’s “Alarm Clock Britain” is beginning to wake up. For those looking to gain an insight into the emergent movement from the perspective of those involved, openDemocracy’s free ebook, Fight back!, is a great place to start.
The collection, which has just been released on Kindle, has already had over 7,000 downloads in a week and received a glowing write-up by Andreas Whittham Smith in the Indy who saw in the book evidence of an “unofficial politics, largely hostile to the Westminster version” based on a “a grassroots democracy” supported by the internet.
The book’s official launch is next week with what promises to be a fascinating discussion on art and protest. Details below - all welcome.
The Art of Protest
A seminar to mark the launch of Fight Back!
2 March 2011, 14:00-17:00, University of East London
Dan Hancox: "Pow! in Parliament Square: Riot music and the kettled generation"
Jesse Darling: "[Protest] Signs and the Signified: handmade propaganda in the age of the branded demographic"
Adam Harper: "The Art and Reality of Protest"
Respondents: Steve 'Kode9' Goodman, Andrew Blake
Chair: Jeremy Gilbert
Full details, directions, and biogs on the UeL website here.